Located just east of the Rocky Mountains in the state of Colorado, Western Union was founded in 1856, a time when ‘branding’ more commonly referred to the practice of searing the hides of livestock with hot irons.
With its early origins linked to the American frontier and the advent of the telegraph, Western Union went on to evolve into the largest consumer money transfer business in the world.
But while its money transfer business may be its most recognisable brand, it is Western Union Business Solutions (WUBS) that leads the herd as the largest non-bank provider to small and medium sized businesses. Formed in 2009, when Western Union acquired Custom House and, subsequently, Travelex, the company has driven massive changes in how money is transferred globally.
Mobile payments, cross border payment and mass payment products have created enormous options and challenges for businesses and WUBS is ramping up its marketing initiatives to see off a stampede of competitors intent on getting in on the space. The growing industry of mobile money services has WUBS looking to expand its reach and focus the brand through what Nick Cerise, global head of marketing and e-commerce, calls an omnichannel approach.
“All buyers are human first. In the digital era, we are online all the time, whether through LinkedIn, Twitter, the Wall Street Journal... What I mean by omnichannel is we work through all the channels available today. If individuals are everywhere, we need them to be connecting the dots back to us.”
Through direct channels and strategic partnerships, WUBS serves more than 100,000 businesses in 31 countries, and delivers payments in more than 200 countries, across all industries and, increasingly, all possible technologies. Its payment solutions encompass education, financial services, legal, non-profit, pension and payroll industries.
“We help businesses manage their cash, essentially, and send millions of payments on a monthly basis. Today we have access to mass payment products sent in a complex scenario of currencies, beneficiaries and technology. There are enormous risks and challenges that we help customers manage.“
With a number of accolades for its strategy to reposition for revenue and profit growth, WUBS’s award-winning marketing team recently brought in global agency Stein IAS to assist with its next steps.
The sheer cultural, regional and language differences of WUBS clients make social networking and marketing strategies uniquely challenging. “We need a very agile approach and feel our local and regional teams are best positioned to activate strategies, but we hope to provide a scalable framework from a central location. Any initiatives that grow globally or have cultural resonance, or any social campaign that feels regional but can be scaled globally, will appeal to WUBS customers.”
One successful campaign for Western Union has been ‘Chain of Betters’, where users on social media nominate a cause worthy of a $1,000 donation, while its social media focus on Chinese New Year or the architecture of Kanchipuram, India, for example, engages thousands daily. WUBS lags in this area and has embarked on creating cultural resonance in its own campaigns while also taking advantage of its position to be a more thought-provoking and insightful leader with its overall content.
“Our customers range from chief financial officers to financial analysts. When you deal in marketing, you deal with ‘fluffy’ terminology and metrics. At times it doesn’t feel concrete.”
WUBS is looking to provide perspective about the marketplace and potential impact on currency. The goal is to put discreet strategies in place to educate its customers.
Cerise is also very much in favour of tapping into a company’s ‘passion points’. As an example, WUBS recently became an official partner to the British Masters, supported by Sky Sports. “That to me is a business passion point. Linking your brand back to sports keeps it top of mind and relevant.”
In the past two years, marketing strategies have also evolved with more focus on innovative campaigns through data insights. WUBS is noted for its sales enablement tools like PACT (prospect and customer tracker) and FXC (foreign exchange communicator) which offer insight into how sales conduct their jobs and approach the marketplace.
The sales department also utilises marketing enablement tools to help make informed decisions. In order to build on the tools and expertise it now has in place, WUBS chose Stein IAS with the goal of furthering its inbound marketing strategy.
“We have a discreet and broad set of tools and in order to execute and market this well, we needed a company that understands those tools. We needed an agency with a global footprint and Stein IAS provides that. Additionally, we needed Stein's particular expertise to help drive a marketing transformation at WUBS, making our marketing more digital, targeted and measurably effective.”
With "outside-in" strategy development," which Cerise describes as "seeing what is happening in the market and not getting stuck navel gazing,” WUBS is looking to a global omnichannel approach as an opportunity to become more and more market-driven.
“One of our strengths is our content. We know what is happening in the market. We have strategies on how to educate our customers. Our goal is to become more influential to our customers.”
This feature was first published in The Drum's B2B special issue on 24 February.